HEADQUARTERS EIGHTEENTH CORPS, May 6, 1864-8.30 p. m.
My effort to reach the railroad to-day with General Heckman's brigade failed. I think had General Gillmore carried out my suggestion and made a corresponding move on the right, that one or both would have succeeded. As it is, I think it of vital importance that the road should be cut, both for the morale of our troops and to effect the object for which I suppose we are here. I would, therefore, respectfully suggest that a picked force be taken from both corps of sufficient size to make success certain. I suggest a detail from both corps in order not to too much weaken the line across the Neck. It is my opinion that for this purpose only the most reliable officers and troops be selected for the attempt.
WM. F. SMITH,
HEADQUARTERS, May 6, 1864.
Major General WILLIAM F. SMITH:
Why did the attempt fail? Please send by bearer a full report of what was done, so that I may make some guess of the force necessary. Give me also your judgment of that force and suggest your detail.
BENJ. F. BUTLER,
HEADQUARTERS TENTH ARMY CORPS, In the Field, May 6, 1864.
Major General W. F. SMITH,
Commanding Eighteenth Army Corps:
GENERAL: The project of striking the railroad to-night with a detachment from this command has been abandoned for what I deem good and sufficient reasons.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Q. A. GILLMORE,
MAY 6, 1864-11 p. m.
Chief of Staff:
General Heckman's brigade not on the railroad at the depot at Port Walthall Junction. Finding what was supposed to be a regiment of the enemy, he attacked. It afterward appeared that the rebels were in greater force. Heckman's brigade became hotly engaged. He sent back for a brigade, and General Weitzel, with the one remaining brigade of that division, was ordered to cover his retreat, if necessary, and hold the ground till the wounded are brought in. Before dark the firing ceased, and it is hoped that General Heckman has been left in possession of the field.
WM. F. SMITH,